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CHARACTER OF BUNYAN'S PREACHING, WITH
EXTRACTS FROM HIS SERMONS.
BUNYAN's labours as a preacher were by no means confined to Bedford and its immediate vicinity. It was his custom, two or three times a year, to take an extensive tour in “ the region round about;” and not a few of the Baptist Churches in Bedfordshire, and the adjoining counties of Cambridge, Hertford, Buckingham, and Northampton, trace their origin to his itinerant labours. These periodical visitations occasioned some jeeringly to call him Bishop Bunyan; but though applied to him in ridicule, he had a far more Scriptural right to this title than had many of the "downy doctors” by whom it was then borne.
It appears too that from the period of his release he paid an annual visit to London, and preached among the congregations of the nonconformists, where, as Doe tells us," he used his talents to the great good-liking of his hearers; and even some to whom he had been misrepresented, upon the account of his [want of] education, were convinced of his worth and
knowledge in sacred things, as perceiving him to be a man of sound judgment, delivering himself plainly and powerfully; insomuch that many who came spectators for novelty, rather than to be edified and improved, went away well satisfied with what they heard; and wondered, as the Jews did at our Lord, namely, Whence this man should have these things; perhaps not considering that God more immediately assists those that make it their business industriously and cheerfully to labour in his vineyard.”
His usual place of preaching, when in London, was a meeting-house in Zoar-street, Southwark,* which, however, so great was his reputation, would not contain half the people that came to hear him, if but a day's notice was given. His friend, Charles Doe, says, “I have
* About the commencement of the present century this meeting-house, after having been closed for twenty. one years, was converted into a wheelwright's shop, for which purpose it was still used so late as 1821, at which time, a person who visited it says, “ A part of the gallery yet remains, with the same wooden pegs still sticking in its front which once held the uncouth hats of those whom the gallant cavaliers of a former period pointed out to public contempt under the designation of round heads, and puritans.'. .. A small portion of this edifice is employed for the instruction of children. The entrance to this school once formed the side entrance to the meeting. house.” It has since been pulled down. The pulpit, of which our engraving (copied from the London Mirror, vol. xxxvi) is an accurate representation, was removed to a chapel in Palace Yard, Lambeth, where it is preserved as a treasured relic of the extraordinary man who had so often expounded from it the word of life.
working day, in dark winter time. I also computed about three thousand that came to hear him at a town's-end meeting-house ; so that half were fain to go back again for want of room : and then himself was fain at a back door to be pulled almost over the people to get up stairs to the pulpit.” In the midst of all this popularity he was humble and modest in his deportment; and his conduct was as irreproachable as his manners were unassuming.
The celebrated Dr. Owen, who appears to have been a personal friend of Bunyan's,* sometimes formed one of his London auditors. It is said that the doctor being once asked by Charles II. why so learned a man as he was could sit and hear an illiterate tinker prate, replied, "May it please your majesty, could I possess the tinker's ability for preaching, I would most gladly relinquish all my learning."
In giving account of Bunyan's call to the ministry, we briefly adverted to his qualifications for this work: we purpose in this place to make some further remarks on the character and style of his pulpit exercises, illustrating them by some passages from his printed discourses.
* Dr. Barlow is supposed to have been influenced by Dr. Owen, (who, it is said, had been his tutor,) to lend his aid in procuring Bunyan's release
His language is always plain and vigorous, free from everything like art or affectation. “ His style,” observes Dr. Southey, “is a homespun, not a manufactured one. It is a clear stream of current English-the vernacular of his age; sometimes indeed in its rusticity and coarseness, but always in its plainness and strength. To this natural style Bunyan is in some degree beholden for his general popularity. His language is everywhere level to the most ignorant reader, and to the meanest capacity : there is a homely reality about it; a nursery tale is not more intelligible, in its manner of relation, to a child."
A striking characteristic of his discourses, and indeed of all his writings, is his wonderful command of Scripture phraseology. He had an extraordinary acquaintance with the letter of the Bible, and an admirable facility in its use and application. Not a doctrine, warning, or exhortation, but at every turn he could illustrate
6 clench it with a text." His preaching was eminently practical. Whatever sentiments he might hold about unconditional election, effectual calling, and irresistible grace, he expected believers to show their faith by their works. His denunciations of fruitless professors must sometimes have made the ears